Needs of adopted children

All children who require adoption are likely to have additional needs.

It can be challenging for a family to provide the consistent care and nurturing that a vulnerable child needs. There are a range of resources designed to help you including an education program and ongoing access to support and training through various support groups.

Family identity

Adopted people will often experience identity issues as they get older. This can become particularly evident during adolescence or at milestones as an adult.

When an adoption order is made, the natural parents no longer have any legal rights over the child. The adopted child becomes a full member of your family, taking your surname and assuming the same rights and privileges as a birth child, including the right of inheritance. A new birth certificate is issued.

Children may have contact with members of their birth family after they join your family. This can seem challenging at first, but it is very important for the child that comes into your family. It is very important for all children to know and understand their origins as this forms part of their identity. Their beginnings are a precious part of who they are and must be accepted, nurtured and valued by their new family.

If children have no contact with their birth family, you'll need to help them understand their background and help them deal with their feelings as they grow up and wonder about their backgrounds. These issues are covered in the education sessions that are a part of the adoption approval process.

Children from overseas

Children who require adoption from overseas are likely to have particular needs as a result of their early life experiences. Many will have lived in orphanages for most of their life and not had the individual care and attention that children need.

They will have experienced multiple caregivers and are unlikely to have formed a strong and healthy bond to a primary carer. Many will have complex and challenging family backgrounds.

Despite the best efforts of orphanage staff, these children are likely to have had poor or limited access to health care, education and other developmental opportunities. Most will have health and developmental issues.

Children with these sorts of life experiences need careful and consistent parenting to help them heal from their traumatic experiences. Considered and insightful parenting will help these children realise their full potential.

Health and disability issues

Adopted children are more likely to have a disability or significant health issue than other children.

For Victorian children this can be because such issues may have had an influence on a birth parents decision to place a child for adoption.

For children from overseas it may be limited access to health care and other supports than led to the decision to seek adoption overseas rather than in the child’s country of birth.

When a child placed for adoption has a disability or significant health issue the case manager will support the family to access appropriate support services. If a child being placed for adoption is Victorian and has a disability or significant health issues the service may be able to further support the family with a carer payment.

Older children

In recent years, the majority of children from overseas placed with Victorian families have been four years and older.

Children from Victoria tend to be younger but are still unlikely to be younger than 12 months old.

Older children are more likely to have experienced trauma or care experienced that may increase the likelihood of attachment issues.


Sibling relationships are often the longest and most significant relationships that people have in their lives.

Sometimes siblings need to be placed at the same time.

Sometimes a child who may not be born at the time one sibling was adopted also requires adoption.

Wherever possible, siblings are kept together.

Cultural identity

In Victoria adoption is considered an option of very last resort for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and not to occur unless with the involvement of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. This is because of unique needs of these children arising from the trauma caused by the treatment by the government of Aboriginal people in the past.

There are however children who are placed for adoption in Victoria whose parents are from a culturally or linguistically diverse background. Such children have the right to grow up in an environment that is culturally safe.

The concept of cultural safety is drawn from the work of Maori nurses in New Zealand and can be defined as:

  • where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need.

It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening.